Meet your 3rd and 4th Ward candidates Council hopefuls want to represent west side of town
by Michael D. Mullins Reporter Staff Writer
May 01, 2007 | 1271 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A total of six candidates are running to represent the 3rd and 4th wards, which cover the lower and middle western part of town.

Overall, 16 Hoboken residents are vying to clinch six City Council seats in the upcoming May 8 election.

The City Council consists of nine seats, six of which represent particular wards (or areas of town), and the other three are at-large seats representing the whole town. While the six ward seats are up for election next month, the three at-large seats are up for election in 2009, the same time the mayor's term is up.

All council members have four-year terms, for which they earn approximately $22,000 annually. This article is the second of three installments profiling the candidates.

Each of the candidates was asked these questions:

Why are they deserving of the seat?

What is the most important issue facing their ward, and how do they plan to fix it?

All biographical information below was provided by the candidates.

The 3rd Ward

The 3rd Ward encompasses 36 blocks situated in the central western part of town.

Although there are approximately 4,900 registered voters in the ward, only 1,589 voted in the last ward election four years ago.

Incumbent Michael Russo, who has retained his seat for the past three and a half years, will be challenged by Frank Raia, who has served on the Hoboken Board of Education since 2003. Both men were born and raised in Hoboken.

Russo, in addition to serving on the council, is a physical therapist who practices in town, while Raia is a builder of both residential and commercial real estate.

Affordable housing, development, and open park space are often at the forefront of the debate in the 3rd Ward. Of particular interest in this year's election is the property at 720 Grand St., a former mercury-contaminated site, which was recently purchased by a development company in which Raia is a partner. The company outbid the city, which had planned to convert the site into a public works facility or an assisted living area. Raia said he plans to build affordable senior citizen housing on the site, which mirrors the intentions of his rival, who last year said that the city should put senior housing there.

Russo is on the council-led ticket "A Voice for All Hoboken," consisting of 2nd Ward candidate Richard Tremitiedi and four incumbent council members. He is closely allied with 1st Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, who is a cousin of his. Both he and Castellano have recently criticized Mayor David Roberts for what they say is a lack of leadership.

Raia is being supported by David Roberts and 1st Ward Candidate Ron Rosenberg.

Frank Raia

Frank Raia, 55, is a businessman in both the textile and real estate industries. He has interests in several local companies that build both commercial and residential buildings, with a focus on affordable housing.

Raia developed such buildings as the Shop Rite and 1118 Adams St. He served as councilman-at-large in 1988 for a seven-month period when he was appointed due to a vacancy caused by the sudden death of Mayor Tom Vezzetti.

In 2005, Raia ran against David Roberts in the mayoral race, and Roberts is now supporting him against Councilman Michael Russo.

Raia has been on the Board of Education for the past four years, having served as president in 2004. Raia, a native of Hoboken, graduated from Hoboken High School in 1968 and went on to earn a degree in computer programming and accounting from the School of Business Machines in Jersey City.

Raia is married to his wife Karen and has one son who is currently a senior at Hoboken High School. In addition to his service in the realm of politics, Raia is also a Hoboken Sewage Authority commissioner, where he has served for the past 18 years. He is an Elks Club member, a 20-year volunteer for the Hoboken Organization against Poverty and Economic Stress, and has coached football, baseball, basketball and soccer teams in Hoboken.

Why are you more deserving of the council seat than your opponent?

"I love Hoboken and believe that it is the best city in New Jersey and one of the best anywhere. I was born and raised in the 3rd Ward at 612 Grand St. I grew up poor, with a single mom and five brothers and sisters. To help out, I worked on a milk truck every morning before I went to elementary school, and I shined shoes too. As a young man, I got an opportunity to become a salesman in the textile business, where I became very successful. But I've never forgotten where I came from. I wasn't born into a powerful family, so I know what it's like to work my way up. I want to give others the same kind of opportunities that helped me become who I am today. I'm running because I want to give something back to the city that I love."

What are the most important issues facing your ward and how do you plan to fix them?

"One of the most important issues is affordable living. For a lot of longtime residents, Hoboken is now unaffordable - not becoming unaffordable, is already unaffordable. I hear it every day from my friends and neighbors when I'm walking down the street. This is why I am so proud of the new 90 affordable apartments that I just built on Adams Street, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments for Hoboken families that rent for $600 to $700 a month. It's good, quality housing and we need more of it. I have also built another 25 affordable housing units in the 3rd Ward. Now, I want to see affordable senior housing built on property that I own on Grand Street. I've also brought affordable food to the 3rd Ward and to Hoboken through the Shop-Rite that I built.

Another important issue is parks - we need more. It's hard to believe that although we have the largest ward, we have the least amount of park space. Our parks are our backyards. I am committed to our open space. I've got real-world business experience to address these issues and I know how to get things done."

Michael Russo

Michael Russo, 32, has spent the last three and a half years on the City Council after winning in a special election to replace his father, former Mayor and Councilman Anthony Russo, who resigned. Anthony Russo was convicted of having accepted bribes in office and is currently serving time in prison. Michael Russo has condemned his father's criminal actions in the past.

Born and raised in Hoboken, Michael Russo graduated from Hoboken High School in 1993 and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Richard Stockton College and a Master's of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Russo is currently a licensed physical therapist, owning and operating a private practice in Hoboken while pursuing a clinical doctorate degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Russo is single.

The 3rd Ward Councilman currently heads the Russo Civic Association in his ward, which provides volunteer-based community services to Hoboken residents.

In addition to his service on the council, Russo spent a little less than a year on the Hoboken Zoning Board, taught summer supplementary classes to students at Hoboken High School, coached P.A.L. football teams in Hoboken, and acted as an assistant scout master for the local Boy Scouts, having been both a Boy Scout and Eagle Scout.

Why are you more deserving of the council seat than your opponent?

"My record is clear! In 3.5 years, I have advocated for all 3rd Ward residents. I voted for legislation reducing the size of the no parking zone on each block from 25 feet to 16 feet, increasing parking by 150 spaces in our neighborhood. As the chairman of the City Council's revenue and finance committee, I was the leader in achieving the first spending cuts in my tenure as a councilman. These cuts lowered the tax burden this year! I have fought all development that did not reflect Hoboken's scale. It was my vote that brought the only affordable homes (condominiums) into the 3rd Ward. I also introduced legislation to build Hoboken's first and only assisted living facility for our seniors. Finally, the only park in the 3rd Ward is being rebuilt and will be open by the summer. I deserve to be re-elected because my record is clear!"

What are the most important issues facing your ward and how do you plan to fix them?

"There are three issues collectively creating a grave concern for the residents of the 3rd Ward. The lack of affordable homes and open space create a void for low and middle income families/residents, while high taxes further the financial burden of our neighbors.

We need to re-create a community and keep our neighbors in Hoboken. By continuing to reduce spending and end the reliance of selling city assets, I will again vote on a balanced budget and lower your tax burden. By introducing a spending and hiring freeze, every tax dollar spent will have to be justified. Both, collectively as a community and through my vote on the City Council, we have to stop big developers! They are taking the few parcels of land left in our ward that can be potential park space.

New affordable homes and affordable rental units must be included in all new Hoboken-scale development. As your councilman, I have introduced legislation to do this and plan on continuing this policy, so all families can enjoy Hoboken's charm. This includes our senior citizens! I will re-introduce legislation to ensure Hoboken has an assisted living facility to protect our neighbors in their golden years and beyond."

The 4th Ward

The 4th Ward encompasses 40 blocks and is situated in the Southwestern part of town, sharing most of its border with Jersey City as well as the 1st and 3rd wards. Many of the city's Housing Authority projects are in the 4th Ward, but that area has seen new luxury condos rising in the past 10 years.

Of the approximately 5,000 registered voters in the ward, only 1,514 voted in the last ward election four years ago.

Incumbent Christopher Campos, who has retained his seat for the past six years, will be challenged by Freddie Frazier, Anthony Mussara and Dawn Zimmer.

As with its neighboring ward, some of the major issues affecting the 4th Ward are affordable housing and park space. Due to its low elevation, the 4th Ward saw much of the most intense flooding this past weekend as a result of the nor'easter that struck the city on Sunday.

One of the most talked-about issues currently affecting the ward is the city's Southwest Redevelopment Plan, which was presented to the public in late February and calls for the rezoning of a 13-acre area in the southern-most point of the city, adding both park and residential space to a formerly industrial region.

Campos is one of four incumbents on the council-led ticket "A Voice for All Hoboken," consisting of 2nd Ward candidate Richard Tremitiedi and the council incumbents.

Frazier, Mussara, and Zimmer are all running as independents.

Christopher Campos

Christopher Campos, 30, is a six-year incumbent. He won a two-year term in 2001 to fill the term of Ruben Ramos after Ramos became councilman-at-large. Campos was re-elected to the 4th Ward council seat in 2003. An attorney, Campos' areas of concentration include litigation, real estate, and sports and entertainment. In addition to practicing out of the law offices of Joseph J. Ryglicki in Edgewater, Campos is a municipal prosecutor for West New York.

Campos received some bad publicity earlier this year when he was arrested on a Driving While Intoxicated charge in New York City after allegedly running a red light. Campos has pleaded not guilty to the DWI. The case will be heard the day after the council election.

The Hoboken native grew up in the city's Housing Authority projects. Now he serves as a Housing Authority commissioner.

Campos graduated from Hoboken High School in 1994 and went on to Denison University in Granville, Ohio, where he earned a bachelor's degree in history and black studies. At graduation, he was selected to be the commencement speaker, being the first black studies major to receive such an honor.

Campos went on to American University's Washington College of Law, where he served as student attorney at the Community and Economic Development Law Clinic, providing legal services for low-income groups engaged in various models of community development.

Campos, who is single, was also a member of the Black Law Students Association, the Hispanic Law Students Association, and the Diversity Committee. Campos graduated in 2001.

Why are you more deserving of the council seat than your opponents?

"I am the candidate that has proposed a balanced vision for our neighborhood, addressing the need for more open space and affordable housing while confronting and working to solve the flooding and traffic problems we face.

In addition, our plan places the cost of improvements upon the developers and not the overburdened taxpayers. My track record as a councilman underscores my commitment to addressing these issues. An examination of my record will show that I have worked toward solving the challenges facing the entire ward. Some examples are the Jackson streetscape project; traffic safety including no parking zones, traffic calming devices and the installation of a much needed traffic signal; the creation and renovation of parks and of our senior center the multi-service facility, just to name a few. I am a councilman for all seasons and all people, not just one special interest."

What are the most important issues facing your ward, and how do you plan to fix them?

"Every issue is important; however, there are priorities. I believe the priority is creating a more inclusive neighborhood and a greater sense of community. Because of our social/economic and cultural diversity, we must remove the "us"-vs.-"them" mentality. In so doing, we will then be able to harness the creativity of our residents to solve the problems of traffic, flooding, lack of open space, and affordable housing. To that end, our proposed comprehensive plan will transform the southwest area into a vibrant and beautiful part of our neighborhood. While the centerpiece of our plan is the creation of a 4-acre park, we have proposed investments in our infrastructure to deal with flooding, affordable housing, wireless technology, traffic calming and commercial retail opportunities.

The creation of a strong economy will translate into employment opportunities for all of our residents. By creating this balanced approach to development, with developers responsible for its cost, our neighborhood will grow stronger and closer together. Doing nothing results in the squandering of this valuable area which unfortunately has been ignored for too many years."

Freddie Frazier

Freddie Frazier, 52, a carpenter and executive board member for the Hoboken branch of the NAACP, has resided in Hoboken since 1959 after moving here from South Carolina, where he was born.

A product of the city's public school system, Frazier graduated from Hoboken High School in 1972, and went on to attend Jersey City State College and St. Peter's College, earning a paralegal certification in 2005. From 1985 to 2000, Frazier served as a New Jersey State Corrections Officer, during which time he worked in both adult and juvenile facilities.

The 4th Ward candidate is married to Linnie, a dental assistant, and has two children and three grandchildren. Frazier said he was the first African-American candidate to run for City Council, when he campaigned unsuccessfully in 1995.

Frazier received the meritorious award and valor award from PBA No. 105 and the Governor's Citation from Governor Christie Whitman for coming to the assistance of several other officers during a riot and helping to quell the disturbance. In addition, Frazier served as a legislative aide to State Sen. Bernard Kenny Jr. for six years.

Frazier is running as an independent.

Why are you more deserving of the council seat than your opponents?

"Although my previous campaigns for office were unsuccessful, I have succeeded in accomplishing some of the goals of those campaigns. I collected and presented petitions to the City Council that resulted in the rerouting of the Light Rail through the 4th Ward, bringing economic revitalizations to the area. Today, two Hoboken Housing Authority residents serve on the Housing Board of Commissioners largely due to my lobbying efforts since my 1995 campaign. I also fought long and hard for the replacement of security guards with Hoboken Police Officers to patrol the Housing Authority grounds.

As a private citizen, I have accomplished things that have positively impacted the 4th Ward. My determination, activism and community involvement show my dedication to this ward and my ability to further advance the concerns of all 4th Ward residents will only be enhanced by my election to the City Council."

What are the most important issues facing your ward and how do you plan to fix them?

"Further development and safe and clean streets are important issues. It is imperative that future development provides affordable housing according to the Council of Affordable Housing's formula. Since 1999, approximately 1,000 housing units were built in our ward with none being senior or affordable units. If the [state] COAH formula was adhered to, there would have been more than 200! As your 4th Ward Councilman, I will not allow this unbalanced development to continue.

With the highest concentration of young adults residing here, our ward is sorely lacking in recreational facilities. The inclusion of adequate amounts of open space for both passive and active recreational activities must be an integral part of the ward's redevelopment.

The Southwest Redevelopment Zone is perhaps the last opportunity for the 4th Ward to properly address these issues of affordable housing and open space in a manner that truly represents the interests of all ward residents. I will make sure that this ward has adequate police protection and receives the same attention to street cleaning that other wards currently enjoy. These are quality of life issues that, addressed properly, will put this much-neglected ward on par with the rest of the city."

Anthony Mussara

Anthony Mussara, 40, was born and raised in Hoboken and currently heads the maintenance department for Hoboken's Public Schools, where he has worked for the past 20 years.

Mussara graduated from St. Joseph's High School in West New York and went on to St. Peter's College in Jersey City, where he studied political science.

The 4th Ward candidate is the father of four children and has been involved in the Hoboken political scene since the age of 9, when he would volunteer to help candidates campaign.

Mussara is the co-founder of the Civic Association for the Puerto Rican Day Parade in Hoboken, which his parents had introduced. He is also the president of the Hispanic Democratic Civic Association in Hoboken as well as a member of the Elks Club and Knights of Columbus.

Why are you more deserving of the council seat than your opponents?

"My civic and moral duties are to our senior citizens and our families. This is something I learned as a child, from my mentor, the late Councilman Louis Francone, who showed Hoboken you don't need a scholar but a leader, and the real lessons in life are not learned in any institutions but in real-life situations.

I am not afraid to discuss the issues that have been ignored for far too long. Crime, drug use, lack of affordable housing, school drop-outs, flooding, traffic congestions, taxes, lack of recreation, assisted living for our seniors, and being ignored by our elected officials, to mention a few. These are the real concerns that should not be addressed just during the election time. And I firmly believe that in the end we are judged not by what we've done for ourselves, but what we have done for others."

What are the most important issues facing your ward and how do you plan to fix them?

"Poverty, unemployment, and the elimination of drug use and drug dealers will be the first issues I will deal with. First, by starting a neighborhood watch we can develop a system where police are notified and drug dealers are arrested.

Second, we would identify the people who need help finding work and [we should] help put food on their tables. With all the construction companies in this town, unemployment should be unheard of. People should not just have to count on a mere $50 on election day [which is the amount some residents receive to get out the vote in the 4th Ward]. Why not build affordable housing, recreation space, assisted living, and senior citizen facilities in the Southwest redevelopment zone?

Our 4th Ward councilman hasn't had one affordable housing unit built since he has been in office. I will fight to stop this irresponsible development. If it does not benefit the people of the 4th Ward, then don't build it. The 4th Ward councilman has increasingly sided with developers. My plan, with your help on May 8, is to eliminate this person from the position of 4th Ward councilman and send a warning to the mayor and both sides of the City Council that our city is no longer for sale."

Dawn Zimmer

Dawn Zimmer, 39, a marketing professional who specializes in photography, moved to Hoboken in August of 2001 from New York City.

Zimmer is originally from New Hampshire, having graduated cum laude in 1990 from the University of New Hampshire, where she earned a degree in history. From '90 through '93, Zimmer lived in rural Japan, where she taught English in a private language school.

The 4th Ward candidate is married to Stan Grossbard, who works in the jewelry business, and has two young sons, both of whom attend the Elysian Charter School in Hoboken.

Zimmer is a principal member of the Southwest Parks Coalition Steering Committee, where she is an advocate for more park space in the 4th Ward. In addition, she has served on the board of the Kaplan Cooperative Preschool and currently volunteers as the secretary of the Parent Teacher Student Organization for the Elysian Charter School, and is an active participant in the Adult Soccer League.

Zimmer is running as an independent.

Why are you more deserving of the council seat than your opponent?

"I am completely independent of any political organization. I am not a professional politician, nor will I become one. Too often, our elected officials have put politics ahead of policy, serving the interests of their political patrons instead of those of our community.

Our neighborhood is extraordinarily diverse, containing seniors, the born-and-raised, the Housing Authority folks, and both young singles and young families. In the past, our elected officials played the 'fear card' by pitting us against each other. I will not let that happen again. As councilwoman I will fight to put the people of the 4th Ward first.

As the mother of two young sons, I am passionately committed to family and our community. I will work tirelessly to make a better life for all of the people in our neighborhood. When I cast my votes, I will always fight for the 4th Ward's fair share."

What are the most important issues facing your ward and how do you plan to fix them?

"The most important issue facing the 4th Ward is how to make the new development coming to Southwest Hoboken work best for the people who live here.

Our neighborhood is plagued by flooding and sewage back up after major rainstorms. During rush hour, the traffic is unbearable. We have virtually no open space, and need more restaurants and stores. We need more affordable housing so that lifelong Hoboken residents are not forced to leave the town they love. As we plan for future development in our community, we need to make sure that these problems are made better, not worse. The redevelopment plan proposed by the mayor and supported by the City Council pretends to address these problems, but in reality, it does not. Not one study has been done to determine the impact that all of this development will have on traffic, flooding, and open space. Much of the "open space" is on top of roofs as much as two stories high, and the acreage is exaggerated by unrealistic assumptions.

Only by creating a real, comprehensive plan that puts the people of the 4th Ward first, can we make our neighborhood better."

Michael Mullins can be reached at mmullins@hudsonreporter.com. Frank Raia Michael Russo (incumbent) These four should be together (can be inside): Christopher Campos (incumbent) Freddie Frazier Anthony Mussara Dawn Zimmer
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